One Hour to Improve A Web Site

Many web designers get paid by the hour to do their work. Imagine, though, being given only 1 hour to come up with a way to improve a web site. What would be the best way to spend that hour? Here’s how it might go: It’s Not Nearly Enough Time Our first reaction, of course, […]

Many web designers get paid by the hour to do their work. Imagine, though, being given only 1 hour to come up with a way to improve a web site. What would be the best way to spend that hour?

Here’s how it might go:

    It’s Not Nearly Enough Time

    Our first reaction, of course, is to complain that it’s not nearly enough time to do much more than have a good browse of the site, let alone make any thoughtful decisions about it. We wouldn’t have enough time to realistically create any new design, do any sort of user testing, or create any new content. We barely have enough time to change the colors in the logo.

    ( but then a little voice in the back of our head says…”maybe that’s why we’re being asked this question, because it will make us…” )

    It’ll Make Us Focus On What’s Important

    Of course this begs the question, what is most important, and to whom? On most web sites there are several parties involved: each of them might have a different answer to what is most important. The designers of the site might say “the design”, the IT guys might say “uptime”, the marketing dept. might say “marketing”, and the boss of the whole thing might say “revenue”. (the users aren’t even around to ask).

    We’ve Got to Pick Something

    So, we’ve burned 15 minutes and we have yet to pick something to do in our precious hour. Assuming we have a CMS installed, we could fire up a new blog, announcing to the world how wonderful the site is. Or we could draft a press release and send it out over the wire. Alternatively, we could sit the design team down and ask them what they think is most important for the site. Or perhaps we would ask the CEO and simply go with whatever pleases them. But then we argue that we’re interested more in what we improve and not whom we ask, and so perhaps we won’t just ask someone and risk opening a can of worms. Let’s pick something objective.

    How About a Metric?

    Ok, we’re getting closer. How about picking one thing that we could measure that seems important? We could choose a very straight-forward metric, assuming that we can somehow measure it on the site. How about revenue? Is that a good one? If we focus on revenue, will the rest of our concerns be taken care of? What about number of site visitors per month? Would that take care of everything else, including revenue? What about the number of comments? (assuming there are some) Would doing whatever it takes to increase comments take care of everything else? Is there any one thing that would take care of everything else? Have we considered everything yet…we’ve only got 20 minutes left…

    Focusing on One or Two Things Passionately

    Of course, we would all come up with a slightly different way to handle the one hour given to us. Some of us would use it as a way to galvanize our thoughts into concrete goals. Others would go the other way and start venting about all the little things on the site that bug them: their pet peaves. “I really hate our logo, it’s so lame” or something similar. Whatever way we choose, we would probably end up focusing on one or two things: one or two things that we think are crucial to the success of the site. Feeling successful, we would have a slight grin on our faces as we realize that our hour is almost up.

    Are These the Same Things We Focus on Every Day?

    Then, like all stressed-out test takers, we second-guess ourselves: Are the one or two things we focused on in this hour the same things we will focus on in the other 39 hours this week? (assuming we get paid for them) Do we stick to our major goals relentlessly, or do we get side-tracked by less important concerns? Are we optimizing our site to reach attainable goals or are we simply making additions to our site because we lack goals?

    Uh, we feel tired and wonder: Are we even on the right track here?

    “Wait!”, we yell. (we’re angry now) “This isn’t fair! Why do we only get one hour? It’s barely enough time to…”

Ok. Time is up.

Published: August 10th, 2004

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